Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Great Buck Howard

I'm a sucker for movies about magicians, er, excuse me, mentalists, so The Great Buck Howard was something I figured I'd like. And I did.

John Malkovich plays the title character, who's based on The Amazing Kreskin, and Colin Hanks plays his road manager. Howard plays a lot of medium-sized cities (they love him in Akron), though he'd once been a bigger star, being almost a regular on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and playing the big casinos in Las Vegas. He might have gone down the ladder of success, but he's still enthusiastic about his job, and he still has the personality quirks of a primo uomo. Hanks begins working for him after he drops out of law school.

So what we have is a coming-of-age movie and one about a former star who's coping with his lesser fame. Both stories worked just fine for me, and there are some very funny moments. Malkovich is just about perfect as Howard, but Hanks is no slouch. Neither is Emily Blunt, and Steve Zahn has a nice role as a guy who really, really admires Buck.

At one point in the movie, when Buck has a big feat prepared, one that he believes will get him back on top, disaster strikes. Or does it? What seems to be a disaster could be the thing that might take him right back to the top. I won't tell you how that works out.

Buck's big closing trick at every show is to have someone in the audience hide his fee. If he doesn't find it, he doesn't get it, but he always finds it. Hanks doesn't know how he does it, and he never asks. The trick is important to the plot in ways that you'd best discover for yourself.

The Great Buck Howard must not have made much noise at the box office, but it's a dandy little film to watch at home. Check it out.

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